Glass or plastic: which is better for the environment?

April 28, 2023

Could it be time to consider more sustainable alternatives to glass, despite its centuries-long use for storing food, beverages, chemicals, and cosmetics? The Speyer wine bottle, dating back to between 325 and 350 AD and held in the Wine Museum in Speyer, Germany, is believed to be the oldest bottle of wine in the world. However, the contents remain unknown as the bottle remains unopened. Despite this, glass has proven its resilience and versatility throughout history, serving various purposes, including preserving food and transmitting signals for the internet.

Glass is considered a material that can be infinitely recycled without any loss of quality, purity, or durability. Recycled glass can be crushed into cullets, melted down, and used to make more glass, making it an eco-friendly option. Additionally, glass packaging has a high recycling rate, with an average of 76% in Europe compared to 41% for plastic and 31% for wood.

Compared to plastic, glass is less likely to cause environmental pollution when left in the natural environment, as it does not break down into harmful microplastics. Glass is made primarily of silica, a natural substance that makes up 59% of the Earth’s crust. This makes glass non-toxic and not prone to leaching or environmental degradation, as is the case with plastics. Franziska Trautmann, the co-founder of Glass Half Full, a New Orleans-based company that recycles glass into sand for coastal restoration and disaster relief, says, “there is no concern about leaching or environmental degradation since silica is a natural compound.” The United Nations has even named 2022 the International Year of Glass to celebrate its contribution to cultural and scientific development.

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Author: Claudia Lee
Title: Glass or plastic: which is better for the environment?
Published: 28 April 2023

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